- Paperback: 208 pages
- Publisher: Monthly Review Press (November 1, 2011)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1583672516
- ISBN-13: 978-1583672518
- Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.6 x 8.5 inches
- Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,587,634 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Cocaine, Death Squads, and the War on Terror: U.S. Imperialism and Class Struggle in Colombia Paperback – November 1, 2011
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And, the cost to human life as the result of this U.S. policy is staggering. The book, citing Colombian investigative journalist Azalea Robles, claims that 250,000 Colombian civilians have been "disappeared" in the last two decades in Colombia, dwarfing the "disappearances" carried out (also with U.S. support by the way) by the fascist juntas of Argentina, Chile and Uruguay in the 1970's. According to Robles, these numbers have been "systematically reduced" (that is, hidden) by mass graves, like the one discovered in Meta in 2009, and even crematory ovens. The murder and "disappearance" of such vast numbers of people is part and parcel of the U.S.'s policy -- used most famously by the U.S. in Vietnam, El Salvador and Guatemala - to "drain the sea [the civilian population] to kill the fish [the insurgents]" which represent a continued impediment to the U.S.'s designs of super-exploitation of Colombia's vast natural resources. And, the U.S. view is that, if this policy also forces us to collaborate and even protect forces which are deeply involved in the drug trade, then that is acceptable as well.
Meanwhile, the U.S. continues to carry out such a duplicitous policy in the interest of a "war on drugs and a war on terror." As the book properly concludes, this war is, in fact, "a war for drugs and of terror."
(This review is an excerpt of one originally appearing on Counterpunch and the Huffington Post)
Cocaine, Death Squads and the War on Terror, U.S. Imperialism and Class Struggle in Colombia is more than the title of a great book. Those words summarise life and death from the Mexican border down to Cape Horn. Their realities have operated ever since the Spanish invaders launched the genocide retold by Eduardo Galeano in The Open Veins of Latin America.
Australian activists and academics Oliver Villar and Drew Cottle have added another profit-and-loss column to the black book of capitalism. For instance, state terrorism slaughtered thousands of the supporters of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) when the Patriotic Union (UP) tried to participate in elections. That massacre is but one of the atrocities organised by the U.S. through its School of the Americas and its related Operation Condor. These crimes continue with the assassination of unionists, peasants, leftists or anyone viewed as "narco-terrorists" by Bogotá and their sponsors in Washington.
One virtue in this book is its shattering of propaganda about the FARC having deteriorated into just another drug cartel. The revolutionaries do tax coca as they do many goods to fund the services they provide to the populations in the liberated zones. Moreover, the coca chewed by the locals is both traditional and a million dollars away from the cocaine snorted on Wall Street, around the White House and at FoxNews. The book challenges the general assumption that revolutionaries do not "tax" or participate in "criminal" activities.
Villar and Cottle position the conflict in its historical context. The FARC is the current expression of a 500-year war waged by wealthy invaders against the indigenous and the landless. Violent resistance did not start in the early 1960s with the emergence of Maoist and Castroist rebel organisations. The battle will not go away even if the FARC were to be wiped out.
The most radical aspect of how Villar and Cottle analyse Colombia is their treatment of cocaine as just another capitalist commodity, like oil or coffee, but as a uniquely imperial commodity. Cocaine has become one more means for extracting surplus value on which to realise profits and thus accumulate capital. Further, the narco-imperialist terror of drug pushing is defined as narco-colonialism. This materialist approach highlights why the drug trade is not a moral choice by individuals. Nor is it just a political problem of removing corrupt politicians in Washington's hip pocket, or, eliminating defiant drug lords like Pablo Escobar in the narco-colony. Illegal drugs, like those from Big Pharma, are one more instance of the political economy of over-production.
The authors also reveal how drugs have played their part in the financialisation of capital since the 1970s. In the wake of the 2008 global implosion, money laundering increased, a financial "crisis" averted by state-organised crime. The legit businesses bankrolled by the official drug lords have not been subject to the credit squeeze. Throughout the implementation of "Plan Colombia" the Private Military Companies (PMCs) which waged the "war on drugs" also made a killing. Such operations were hailed as another "success story" in the drug war currently being exported to Mexico. Cocaine is a stimulus for global capital as much as a physical one for its other addicts and victims in the "war on terror."
To publish studies like this one inside Colombia will get you arrested for supporting terrorism. In one sense, that accusation is justified. To tell the truth about state terrorism is to threaten U.S. imperialism and by encouraging further opposition to its rule. They are crimes according to the skewed justice of class rule and exploitation. Drug running is business as usual. Not all "rebels" should be supported it seems.
(This article is based on the speech that Humphrey McQueen made when launching the book at Gould's Book Arcade, Australia in March.